Your family will love this easy butter bean recipe, made with melted pizza cheese, baby spinach, tomato and garlic.
This simple one skillet dinner layers large, creamy butter beans with a garlicky tomato sauce, pizza cheese, baby spinach and fresh basil - it's a comforting vegetarian meal that's easy to slide into your dinner rotation because it's made from just a few ingredients.
I like to serve this meal with garlic bread to scoop up the beans, and arugula salad on the side.
- Canned butter beans
- Tomato paste
- Olive oil
- Grated cheese
- Baby Spinach
- Fresh herbs for garnish
Even though melted cheese plays a starring role, it's not actually the main star of this dish. That honor belongs to butter beans.
If you don't know about butter beans, let me introduce you.
What Are Butter Beans?
Butter beans are large white beans. They have a wide, flat shape and an outer skin that is thick enough to hold the bean together and give it a slightly firm and sturdy texture. Butter beans don't dissolve into a dish. They hold their shape, which makes them perfect for baked dishes like this one, or slow-cooked dishes like stew.
But when you bite into a butter bean, the middle is soft and creamy and buttery. It has a mild flavor that pairs well with just about anything. As far as beans go, they are incredibly satisfying.
I use canned butter beans in this recipe, which should be easy to find at the grocery store.
Are Lima Beans and Butter Beans the Same?
There is great debate on the internet about whether or not lima beans and butter beans are the same thing. People are so passionate on both sides of the issue that I'm hesitant to enter the debate. But here we go....
I fall into the "yes" camp - butter beans and lima beans are the same thing. Varieties of lima beans that are larger in size are called butter beans when they are sold dried or canned.
There are different varieties of lima beans. The baby lima, which is smaller and bright green, is most commonly thought of as a lima bean. When cooked fresh from the garden, they often have a chalkier texture than larger, varieties of lima beans do.
Larger varieties of lima beans include the Fordhook and King of the Garden. These varieties range in color from light green to off-white or cream colored. Presumably, these are the varieties of lima bean which are is sold canned at the grocery store and labeled as butter beans. My trusty "Food Lover's Companion" book states that dried lima beans are called butter beans in the South.
White Bean Substitutions - Corona & Gigante
This recipe is best when large white beans are used. You can use smaller white beans in a pinch (like Great Northern or Cannellini) but the dish doesn't turn out as well. Smaller beans tend to get a bit mushy and get lost under the cheese.
There are other varieties of large white beans that are very similar to canned butter beans and have the same wide flat shape and creamy inner texture of canned butter beans. These beans are most commonly sold dried, so you'll have to cook them before making this recipe.
Christmas Beans or Calico Beans: These are purple or speckled lima beans
Greek or Spanish Gigante Beans: As far as I can tell, these "giant" white beans are the same as butter beans. Gigante beans are also a larger variety of lima bean, one that is native to Greece and the Mediterranean area.
Corona Beans: A European variety that's even larger than dried lima beans
I like a combination of Asiago and Mozzarella for this dish. The Asiago brings sharp, bold flavor and the mozzarella is mild and melty. Many stores sell bags of grated "Pizza Cheese" that you can use, or you can grate your own.
Types of cheese that work well in this recipe:
- Monterey Jack
This one-skillet dinner is made in just a few easy steps.
I mostly use my 12-inch cast iron skillet for one-skillet dinners like this one. I love that I can start the recipe on the stove, then move it straight into the oven. Easy skillet dinners include Greek Chicken Pasta, or Barley with Eggs and Spinach, and Shrimp and Feta Garlic Bread or Chickpeas and Spinach.
More Bean Recipes
- How to Cook Red Lentils
- How to Cook Garbanzo Beans
- Instant Pot Pinto Beans
- Slow Cooker White Bean and Tomato Soup with Orzo
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